The following Navajo legislative document is made available through NativeWeb with the editorial assistance of James W. Zion, Solicitor to the Navajo Nation Courts and international and tribal law expert.
Zion points out that the document "is an amazing text. It is difficult to interpret--from the standpoint of western law--because it is very Navajo in its statement in English. That means that it can be best understood in its original context, and yet, it is a Navajo law written in English and meant to be applied in English. It states some very fundamental rights from a Navajo point of view."
Zion also notes that "there was a lot of input from Dine' College and the Navajo Medicine Man's Association" in the development of this legislation.
1. The Navajo Nation Council is the governing body of the Navajo Nation, as provided for in 2 N.N.C. § 102 (A); and
2. The Dine' have always been guided and protected by the immutable laws provided by the Diyin Dine' e, Nahasdzaa and Yadilhil; these laws have not only provided sanctuary for the Dine' Life Way but has guided, sustained and protected the Dine' as they journeyed upon and off the sacred lands upon which they were placed since time immemorial; and
3. It is the duty of the Nation's leadership to preserve, protect and enhance the Dine' Life Way and sovereignty of the people and their government; the Nation's leaders have always lived by these fundamental laws, but the Navajo Nation Council has not acknowledged and recognized such fundamental laws in the Navajo Nation Code; instead the declaration and practice of these fundamental laws have, up to this point in time, been left to those leaders in the Judicial Branch; and
4. The Navajo Nation Council is greatly concerned that knowledge of these fundamental laws is fading, especially among the young people; the Council is also concerned that this lack of knowledge may be a primary reason why the Dine' are experiencing the many negative forms of behavior and natural events that would not have occurred had we all observed and lived by these laws; and
5. The Navajo Nation Council finds that the Dine' Life Way must be protected and assured by incorporating these fundamental laws into the Navajo Nation Code in a manner that will openly acknowledge and recognize their importance and would generate interest to learn among all Dine'; and
6. The Navajo Nation Council finds that the acknowledgment, recognition and teaching of these laws do not contravene 1 N.N.C. § 4; the incorporation of these fundamental laws into the Navajo Nation Code is not governmental establishment of religion nor is it prohibiting the free exercise of religion; the Navajo Nation Council and the Dine' have always recognized and respected the principle of these fundamental laws and the Dine' Life Way that all Dine' have the right and freedom to worship as they choose; and the Navajo Nation Council and the Dine' recognize that the Dine' Life Way is a holistic approach to living one's life whereby one does not separate what is deemed worship and what is deemed secular in order to live the Beauty Way; and
7. The Navajo Nation Council further finds that it is entirely appropriate for the government itself to openly observe these fundamental laws in its public functions such as the installation or inauguration of its leaders and using and placing the appropriate symbols of Dine' Life Way in its public buildings and during legislative and judicial proceedings; and
8. The Navajo Nation Council further finds that all elements of the government must learn, practice and educate the Dine' on the values and principles of these laws; when the judges adjudicate a dispute using these fundamental laws, they should thoroughly explain so that we can all learn; when leaders perform a function using these laws and the symbols of the Dine' Life Way, they should teach the public why the function is performed in a certain way or why certain words are used; and
9. The Navajo Nation Council further finds that all the details and analysis of these laws cannot be provided in this acknowledgment and recognition, and such an effort should not be attempted; the Navajo Nation Council finds that more work is required to elucidate the appropriate fundamental principles and values which are to be used to educate and interpret the statutory laws already in place and those that may be enacted; the Council views this effort today as planting the seed for the education of all Dine' so we can continue to Walk In Beauty; and
10. The Navajo Nation Council commends the Honorable Edward T. Begay, the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, Mr. Henry Barber and Legislative Staff, and all the medicine people and elders who assisted in the development of this proposed legislation; the Council deems it in the best interest of the Navajo Nation to adopt the proposed legislation attached hereto as Exhibit "A" and incorporated hereby by reference.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. The Navajo Nation Council hereby amends Title 1 of the Navajo Nation Code by adopting the attached legislation, marked Exhibit "A".
2. The Navajo Nation Council directs the Office of Legislative Counsel to codify this legislation.
I hereby certify that the foregoing resolution was duly considered by the Navajo Nation Council at a duly called meeting in Window Rock, Navajo Nation (Arizona) at which a quorum was present and that the same was passed by a vote of 45 in favor, 4 opposed and 1 abstained, this 1st day of November 2003.
/s/ Ralph Bennett, Jr.
Speaker Pro Tem
Navajo Nation Council
Motion: Harold Wauneka
Second: Freddie Howard
ACTION BY THE NAVAJO NATION PRESIDENT:
1. I hereby give notice that I will not veto the foregoing legislation, pursuant to 2 N.N.C. Section 1005(C)(10), on this 13th day of November 2002.
/s/ Kelsey A. Begaye, President
[Editor's Note: standard veto language omitted]
We, the Dine', the people of the Great Covenant, are the image of our ancestors and we are created in connection with all creation.
Dine' Bi Beehaz'aanii Bitsi Silei
[Editor's note: 26 lines of Navajo text are omitted here]
The Holy People ordained,
Through songs and prayers,
Earth and universe embody thinking,
Water and the sacred mountains embody planning,
Air and variegated vegetation embody life,
Fire, light, and offering sites of variegated sacred stones embody wisdom.
These are the fundamental tenets established.
Thinking is the foundation of planning.
Life is the foundation of wisdom.
Upon our creation, these were instituted within us and we embody them.
Accordingly, we are identified by:
Our Dine' name,
Our life way,
Therefore, we were called the Holy Earth-Surface-People.
From here growth began and the journey proceeds.
Different thinking, planning, life ways, languages, beliefs, and laws appear among us,
But the fundamental laws placed by the Holy People remain unchanged.
Hence, as we were created with living soul, we remain Dine' forever.
[Editor's note: An illustration of Mother Earth and Father Universe is omitted here. It is two circular maps, showing the Navajo Sacred Mountains, with a circular map of the White World below, and a map of the Glittering World above. The Glittering World is shown to be within a dome with the Sun at the apex, and the Moon and stars outside the dome.]
The Dine' bi beenahaz'aanii embodies Diyin bitsaadee beehaz'aanii (Traditional Law), Diyin Dine'e bitsaadee beehaz'aanii (Customary Law), Nahasdzaan doo Yadilhil bitsaadee beehaz'aanii (Natural Law), and Diyin Nohookaa Dine' bi beehaz'aanii (Common Law).
These laws provide sanctuary for the Dine' life and culture, our relationship with the world beyond the sacred mountains, and the balance we maintain with the natural world.
These laws provide the foundation of Dine' bi nahat'a (providing leadership through developing and administering policies and plans utilizing these laws as guiding principles) and Dine' sovereignty. In turn, Dine' bi nahat'a is the foundation of the Dine' bi nahat'a (government). Hence, the respect for, honor, belief and trust in the Dine' bi beenahaz'aanii preserves, protects and enhances the following inherent rights, beliefs, practices and freedoms:
A. The individual rights and freedoms of each Dine' (from the beautiful child who will be born tonight to the dear elder who will pass on tonight from old age) as they are declared in these laws; and
B. The collective rights and freedoms of the Diyin Nihookaa Dine' as a distinct people as they are declared in these laws; and
C. The fundamental values and principles of Dine' Life Way as declared in these laws; and
D. Self-governance; and
E. A government structure consisting of Hozhooji Nahat'a (Executive Branch), Naat'aji Nahat'a (Legislative Branch), Hashkeeji Nahata (Judicial Branch), and the Naayee'ji Nahat'a (National Security Branch); and
F. That the practice of Dine' bi nahat'a through the values and life way embodied in the Dine' bi beenahaz'aanii provides the foundation for all laws proclaimed by the Navajo Nation government and the faithful adherence to Dine' Bi Nahat'a will ensure the survival of the Navajo Nation; [lettering in the original; should be "F'] and
G. That Dine' bi beenahaz'aanii provides for the future development and growth of a thriving Navajo Nation regardless of the many different thinking, planning, life ways, languages, beliefs, and laws that may appear in the Navajo Nation; and
H. The right and freedom of the Dine' to be educated as to Dine' Bi Beenahaz'aanii; and
I. That Dine' Bi Beenahaz'aanii provides for the establishment of governmental relationships and agreements with other nations; that the Dine' shall respect and honor such relationships and agreements and that the Dine' can expect reciprocal respect and honor from such other nations; and
The Dine' Traditional Law declares and teaches that:
A. It is the right and freedom of the Dine' to choose leaders of their choice; leaders who will communicate with the people for guidance; leaders who will use their experience and wisdom to always act in the best interest of the people; and leaders who will also ensure the rights and freedoms of generations yet to come; and
B. All leaders chosen by the Dine' are to carry out their duties and responsibilities in a moral and legal manner in representing the people and the government; the people's trust and confidence in the leaders and the continued status as a leader are dependent upon adherence to the values and principles of Dine bi beenahaz'aanii; and
C. The leader(s) of the executive branch (Alaaji Hozhooji Naat'aah) shall represent the Navajo Nation to other peoples and nations and implement the policies and laws enacted by the legislative branch; and
D. The leader(s) of the legislative branch (Alaaji' Naat'aji Naat'aah and Alaaji' Naat'aji Ndaanit'aii or Naat'aanii) shall enact policies and laws to address the immediate and future needs; and
E. The leader(s) of the judicial branch (Alaaji' Haskeeji Naat'aah) shall uphold the values and principles of Dine' bi beenahaz'aanii in the practice of peace making, obedience, discipline, punishment, interpreting laws and rendering decisions and judgments; and
F. The leader(s) of the security branch (Alaaji' Naayee'ji Naat'aah) are entrusted with the safety of the people and the government. To this end, the leader(s) shall maintain and enforce security systems and operations for the Navajo Nation at all time and shall provide services and guidance in the event of severe national crisis or military-type disasters; and
G. Our elders and our medicine people, the teachers of traditional laws, values and principles must always be respected and honored if the people and the government are to persevere and thrive; the teachings of the elders and medicine people, their participation in government and their contributions of the traditional values and principles of Dine' life way will ensure growth of the Navajo Nation; and from time to time, the elders and medicine people must be requested to provide the cleansing, protection prayers, and blessing ceremonies necessary for securing healthy leadership and the operation of the government in harmony with traditional law; and
H. The various spiritual healings through worship, song and prayer (Nahagha) must be preserved, taught, maintained and performed in their original forms; and
I. The Dine' and the government must always respect the spiritual beliefs and practices of any person and allow for the input and contribution of any religion to the maintenance of a moral society and government; and
J. The Dine' and the government can incorporate those practices, principles and values of other societies that are not contrary to the values and principles of Dine' Bi Beenahaz'aanii and that they deem is in their best interest and is necessary to provide for the physical and mental well-being for every individual.
The Dine' Customary Law declares and teaches that:
A. It is the right and freedom of the people that there always be holistic education of the values and principles underlying the purpose of living in balance with all creation, walking in beauty and making a living; and
B. It is the right and freedom of the people that the sacred system of k'e, based on the four clans of Kiiyaa'aanii, Todich'iinii, Honaghaahnii and Hashtl'isihnii and all the descendent clans be taught and preserved; and
C. It is the right and freedom of the people that the sacred Dine' language (nihiinei') be taught and preserved; and
D. It is the right and freedom of the people that the sacred bonding in marriage and the unity of each family be protected; and
E. It is the right and freedom of the people that every child and every elder be respected, honored and protected with a healthy physical and mental environment, free from all abuse.
F. It is the right and freedom of the people that our children are provided with education to absorb wisdom, self-knowledge, and knowledge to empower them to make a living and participate in the growth of the Navajo Nation.
Dine' Natural Law declares and teaches that:
A. The four sacred elements of life, air, light/fire, water and earth/pollen in all their forms must be respected, honored and protected for they sustain life; and
B. The six sacred mountains, Sisnajini, Tsoodzil, Dook'o'oosliid, Dibe Nitsaa, Dzil Na'oodilii, Dzil Ch'ool'i'i, and all the attendant mountains must be respected, honored and protected for they, as leaders, are the foundation of the Navajo Nation; and
C. All creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky to the animals, those who live in water, those who fly and plant life have their own laws, and have rights and freedom to exist; and
D. The Dine' have a sacred obligation and duty to respect, preserve and protect all that was provided for we were designated as the steward of these relatives through our use of the sacred gifts of language and thinking; and
E. Mother Earth and Father Sky is part of us as the Dine' and the Dine' is part of Mother Earth and Father Sky; The Dine' must treat this sacred bond with love and respect without exerting dominance for we do not own our mother or father.
F. The rights and freedoms of the people to the use of the sacred elements of life as mentioned above and to the use of the land, natural resources, sacred sites and other living beings must be accomplished through the proper protocol of respect and offering and these practices must be protected and preserved for they are the foundation of our spiritual ceremonies and the Dine' life way; and
G. It is the duty and responsibility of the Dine' to protect and preserve the beauty of the natural world for future generations.
The Dine' Common Law declares and teaches that:
A. The knowledge, wisdom, and practices of the people must be developed and exercised in harmony with the values and principles of the Dine' Bi Beenahaz'aanii; and in turn, the written laws of the Navajo Nation must be developed and interpreted in harmony with Dine' Common Law; and
B. The values and principles of Dine' Common Law must be recognized, respected, honored and trusted as the motivational guidance for the people and their leaders in order to cope with the complexities of the changing world, the need to compete in business to make a living and the establishment and maintenance of decent standards of living; and
C. The values and principles of Dine' Common Law must be used to harness and utilize the unlimited interwoven Dine' knowledge, with our absorbed knowledge from other peoples. This knowledge is our tool in exercising and exhibiting self-assurance and self-reliance in enjoying the beauty of happiness and harmony; and
Dine' Original Law Structure
[Editor's note: A "table of organization" chart is omitted here. It shows (in Navajo and English) the People at the top; under which are the leaders; "laws" in general are below the leaders; and the laws are divided into the sub-classification boxes of Traditional Law, Customary Law, Natural Law, and Common Law.]
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